Written by: Crystal Mendl
It’s finally here - fall! Well, kind of, but not really. It’s hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hades! For real, it’s hot. But nonetheless, sweet summer is over, and fall classes are upon us. Let’s take some time to prep for a busy semester.
Each August, I turn my thermostat down and prepare for a marathon in my kitchen. You see, I have two kiddos and a husband. For health, time management and financial purposes, I meal prep. I meal prep for about 8 hours on a Sunday to be able to feed my family for the grueling 16 weeks to come.
Let’s face it, moms these days are modern-day superheroes. We know where the beloved stuffed animal is that the named child left in the car last week, the fruit snacks that have magically hidden themselves in the pantry, and the matching tennis shoe that the named child was supposed to put away amongst a million other requests.
We clean, we cook, we work full time, go to school, make meals and lunches, tend to our children and husband, pets, bills, exercise - you name it, we do it! Each day my kids come home from school, they are like termites trying to eat everything in sight!
So, getting dinner ready before they completely fill up on applesauce, yogurt and graham crackers is a task cut out for the strongest supermoms. It’s a busy time of the year, and the semester is coming for you. So, let’s get ready!
It took me two weekends to prepare for the meal prep day. The first weekend, I planned out my meals, went to the grocery store and borrowed an extra pressure cooker. Using grocery pickup would have saved me a lot of time and sanity, but I battled the grocery stores. I guess I like the abuse!
Gringo Enchiladas - This is my mama’s recipe!
- 1 pound of ground beef, browned and drained
- ½ of a medium onion diced
- 1 Taco pkg
- Flour tortillas 10-20
- 1 pkg of Shredded cheese or, if you want to really be bad, Velveeta (if you happen to have a dairy allergy, we love the Follow Your Heart brand)
- 1 can of Wolf brand chili or, if you make the Pioneer Woman version, use 10-15 oz of that goodness
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 glass baking pan. Brown 1 pound of ground beef, add half a diced onion and season with the taco seasoning packet. Roll a few spoonful or two of the ground beef mixture into each tortilla, add a little shredded cheese and place in a greased pan. Repeat until all the beef is gone. Top with the chili, and then finish with a healthy layer of cheese. Bake in the oven just until the cheese is melted. Let cool completely, then spatula into freezer bags. Thaw and reheat in the oven or microwave. It reheats best in the oven. Heat until the edges are crispy and the cheese melts.
Meatloaf - Also my mama’s recipe! It’s my kids’ favorite of all time
- 1 tsp of ground mustard
- 2 eggs beaten
- 4 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups of canned fried onions, can replace with rice krispies
- 1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs, can replace with rice krispies
- 1/2 tsp of onion powder
- 1 tsp of season salt
- 1 tsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 3 lbs of lean ground beef
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard (set aside ½ cup of mixture for topping). Add eggs, worcestershire sauce, onions, breadcrumbs, ½ cup of ketchup mixture and seasonings. Mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Let the kids mix with their tiny hands! Press into 18 muffin cups, about 1/3 cup each. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Drizzle with reserved ketchup mixture. Bake for 10 more minutes until meat reaches 160 degrees. May freeze for 3 months. Microwave for 1 minute. Top them with mashed potatoes for meatloaf cupcakes!
I like Pioneer Woman’s recipes and scoured Pinterest to find something different since we are tired of the same old stuff. I came up with the following list:
- Comfort Meatball Packets - Pioneer Woman’s recipe (kids, nieces, nephews, husband approved)
- Chili - Pioneer Woman’s recipe
- Hamburger Patties - Season these with Fiesta brand Chipotle Hamburger seasoning, form into patties and freeze for easy thawing and grilling
- Salisbury Steaks - Pioneer Woman’s recipe
- Taco Meat - I brown, season and freeze one to two-pound packs, so all I have to do is toss a pack in the fridge the night before and warm it when we get home.
- Breakfast Tacos - Fill them with whatever tickles your fancy! Roll them up, and place them in a plastic Tupperware. Grab a taco, heat it in the microwave for about one minute, turn the taco over, and then heat it for 30 more seconds.
- Egg Muffins - These are simple and allow you to use your imagination and follow your taste buds! Mix eggs with fillings like cheese, bacon, sausage, sautéed onions and red bell peppers. You can use your imagination! Mix it all together, pour it into greased muffin tins and bake until the top is slightly browned and the middles are cooked through.
- Sunday Night Stew - Pioneer Woman’s recipe
- Beef and Broccoli Teriyaki - Happy Money Saver’s recipe
- Sesame Honey Chicken - Happy Money Saver’s recipe
- Shredded Chicken - Two whole rotisserie chickens from Costco are about $5 each. If your local grocer isn’t this cheap, consider roasting your own in the Instant Pot
- Pork Chops and Roasts - Pork Loin from Costco
Meal Prep Tips
My favorite stores are Sprouts (since at least two people in my household have a Dairy allergy), HEB and Costco. Yes, I went to three grocery stores. This is why I started the week before.
I bought a six-pound package of ground 90%/10% beef, a large pork loin, two rotisserie chickens already cooked (an amazing deal and time saver), a package of chicken breasts, a package of beef already made into patties, bacon, eggs, seasoned fajita meat and both beef and chicken broth all at Costco. The pork loins at Costco are about $11, and you can do your own butchering and get at least three meals out of it for a family of four. I cut 1/3 of the loin into seven or eight chops, 1/3 into stew meat and the last 1/3 into a small roast for when the weather decides it will have mercy on us. I bought the veggies at Costco and HEB and had many of the spices and condiments already.
I included my kids in the fun. My 5-year-old son deboned both rotisserie chickens by himself. I was super proud of him! He also helped with the meatloaf that his sister decided to make. My husband helped with packaging and dishes. Cooking is more fun when it is a family affair!
I have a food saver, which works great for ensuring freshness of the freezer meals, but freezer bags work too. Make sure you label, date and lay them flat in your freezer. This makes it much easier to thaw later. I ended up with enough food to have at least two to three freezer meals each week with minimal effort, which means I cook only two to three times during the week.
I also have a one-month dry erase board I keep in my kitchen. I fill it out, and we stick with the plan! This makes deciding what to make for dinner very easy, and I don’t get the call from my husband. It’s on the calendar in the kitchen. Can I get an amen?! I always keep fresh and frozen veggies on hand, and my husband can throw dinner together in a matter of minutes when needed. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
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